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They say that some places you visit are akin to religious experiences. I’d always wanted to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail because I thought it’d be cool to challenge myself.
Actually hiking the Inca Trail was indeed challenging at times, but moreover, it was an incredible experience, sort of a personal pilgrimage. Which is appropriate given that the trail was originally a religious pilgrimage for the Incas. (Did you know, only the kings were technically called the Incas?)
From bonding with our trekking group to pacing our breaths at 4,000+ meters up in the mountains to reflecting on the efforts of our porters, our 4 days on the Inca Trail were thrilling, gorgeous, sweaty, and most of all, reflective.
There’s something about being on your feet and traversing across mountain ranges that adds perspective. These incredible views certainly helped.
Planning a trip? Here’s all you need to know to prepare.
Day 1 on the Inca Trail
As soon as you get on the trail, you’re surrounded by Instagrammable scenery.
This is the view from the first bridge you cross after the official entrance to the Inca Trail, perfectly foreshadowing all the gorgeous views to come the next 26 miles through the Andes.
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Day 2 on the Inca Trail
The first part of our day 2 was the climb up to Dead Woman’s Pass, commonly known as the hardest part of the Inca Trail. So most of that time was spent looking down at my feet to make sure I didn’t trip and pacing myself to make sure I was taking in enough oxygen.
It was well worth this view at 4215 meters (13,828 feet). (Note: because of the high elevations, it’s crucial that you take a few days in Cusco to acclimate. It won’t be a boring time either! Here are 101 things to do in Cusco.)
It’s super cold at the Inca Trail’s highest point though so we snapped some photos and quickly skedaddled out of there!
Day 3 on the Inca Trail
Related: Looking for more photogenic spots in Peru? Don’t miss the Rainbow Mountain.
Day 4 on the Inca Trail
And finally, the day to go to Machu Picchu had arrived.
We got up ridiculously early, and as soon as the control gates opened, basically ran up to the Sun Gate.
Most people pray for a clear morning, but I was super glad to have some fog first. It gave Machu Picchu a veil of mystery it no longer really has in this connected age. And it made our Inca Trail reward all the more incredible once the fog lifted.
We made it!
And here’s another.
More to come on Inca Trail must-knows, packing lists, and a review of Alpaca Expeditions, our trek provider. In the meantime, which view was your fav?
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